The keeper conundrum
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Josh Gordon changed the game, and not in a good way.

The Cleveland wide receiver's expected season-long suspension is troubling on a number of levels. For one, it casts doubt on Gordon's once unlimited potential. Gordon wouldn't be the first talent to let destructive off-field behavior ruin a promising career. But more importantly, Gordon's ban will likely prevent us from seeing what could have been one of the more exciting quarterback/receiver pairings in football. Now Johnny Manziel will spend his days throwing to guys like Miles Austin and Nate Burleson instead of the league's reigning yardage champion.

What frustrates me most about Gordon is what he did to my fantasy team. Gordon was a lock to be one of my keepers until a failed drug test put his season on hold. Now Gordon's keeper spot will have to be occupied by either Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris or St. Louis Rams halfback Zac Stacy.

So who gets the nod? In the famous words of DMX, let's add up all the factors.

Ball security

Morris coughed up the rock five times last season. That tied him with Detroit's Reggie Bush for the league lead among halfbacks. Fortunately, the nation's capital was much too consumed with RG3's problems to notice any of Morris' shortcomings.

Meanwhile in St. Louis, the sure-handed Stacy had just one turnover last season. Of course, Stacy didn't become the full-time starter until Week 5 so he didn't have as many chances as Morris.

Competition

The Rams cut Daryl Richardson this offseason but they replaced him with Auburn product Tre Mason, a second-team All-American and one of the finalists for last year's Heisman Trophy. The Rams didn't draft Mason to be a backup so it's only a matter of time until he replaces Stacy as the starter. The question is, will it happen in 2014 or a few years down the line?

Morris' job is pretty secure, although Roy Helu Jr. played a lot on passing downs last season. Darrel Young and Robert Griffin III have been known to vulture touchdowns near the goal line but it's still Morris getting most of the early down work.

Consistency

Morris holds a clear edge in the consistency department. He went over 70 yards 11 times last season including nine games in a row between Weeks 2 and 11. He never went more than three games without a touchdown.

Stacy, though terrific in spurts, had major lapses including a 15-yard game against the Seahawks in Week 17. Efficiency was also a problem for Stacy, who only averaged five yards per carry in three of his 14 contests. Fortunately for Stacy, he was sometimes able to offset low yardage totals by scoring cheap touchdowns. An example of this would be last year's game against San Francisco when Stacy averaged just 1.8 yards per carry but was able to salvage the week by punching in a one-yard touchdown.

Health

Part of what makes both of these players so appealing is that neither of them seem to get hurt. Morris has yet to miss a game in his two seasons while Stacy's only injury concern came in Week 12 when he suffered a mild concussion against Chicago. He missed the second half but was back in action a week later against the Niners, rattling off 72 yards on 19 carries. Morris (5-foot-9, 218 pounds) and Stacy (5-foot-8, 224 pounds) both have good size, which is exactly what you want in a workhorse running back. Health isn't something fantasy owners need to worry about with these two.

Scoring

Morris (4.67 40-yard dash) and Stacy (4.55) aren't burners but they run well behind blocks and are good at moving the chains. As a result, you won't see many 50-yard touchdown bursts from these two but both can do damage around the goal line.

Appropriately, Stacy and Morris both finished with the same number of touchdowns last season (seven) though Stacy's total increases to eight if you count a receiving score he tallied against Carolina in Week 7. Morris peaked early, scoring five times in the first half of the season and only twice after that. Stacy, on the other hand, scored seven of his eight touchdowns after Week 8. Stacy had the only multi-touchdown game out of the two, crossing the goal line twice in Week 9.

Volume

Morris benefited from Mike Shanahan's run-first approach but now he's playing under Jay Gruden, who comes from a passing background in Cincinnati. With DeSean Jackson now in the fold and Griffin III a year removed from ACL surgery, the Redskins will be looking to air it out much more than they did in 2013. That's not good for Morris, who has proven to be an ineffective receiver throughout his career (155 yards on 20 catches in two seasons).

With Sam Bradford hurt and only Kellen Clemens to turn to at quarterback, the Rams offense ran almost entirely through Stacy last year. It was an ideal fantasy situation as Stacy saw nearly 22 carries per game in the second half of the season.

Of course, Bradford is healthy now, which could mean a lighter workload for Stacy. Still, Bradford's options in the passing game are few and far between (tight end Jared Cook led the team in receiving yards with 673) and it would be a surprise if the Rams aren't near the top of the league in rushing attempts. Even if some of those carries are going to Mason, Stacy should still get plenty of touches, particularly around the goal line where he holds a noticeable size advantage over Mason (205 pounds).

The verdict

There's no easy answer here. In a recent ranking of the league's best dynasty running backs, ESPN had Morris and Stacy listed back-to-back at 14th and 15th respectively.

I tend to side with Bristol on this one but I understand the argument for Stacy. He's a better receiver than Morris and the Rams seem committed to running the football. I just worry about Mason taking away some of his touches. Plus, Morris has been doing this for two years while Stacy has only done it for half of one.

Morris it is. Leave it to Josh Gordon to make our lives more complicated.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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